Hawaii softball: UH splits doubleheader with Davis, NCAA berth out of reach

Brittany Hitchcock wound up for one of her 13 strikeouts in a complete-game 12 inning performance. / Photo by Brian McInnis

It was going to take a lot for the Hawaii softball team to pick up an NCAA tournament berth at the conclusion of this week.

For starters, the Rainbow Wahine needed to sweep Thursday’s doubleheader against UC Davis to keep hope of an outright Big West regular-season title alive into Friday’s senior night. Sweeping Davis in three games and having Cal State Fullerton lose out at UC Riverside in three games Friday and Saturday was the only combination that would result in Hawaii making the NCAAs for the first time since 2013.

The drama of the chase for UH (33-15, 14-6 Big West) ended just two games in, as Davis (38-14, 12-8) proved tough enough to salvage a split of the doubleheader at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

Ace Brittany Hitchcock provided everything her team could’ve asked for, and then some, in the first contest, throwing a career-long 12 innings of five-hit ball with 13 strikeouts and just one walk in UH’s 2-1 win. It was an epic pitchers’ duel with Davis sophomore Brooke Yanez, the Big West’s other top-tier player in wins and ERA who punched out a program-record-tying 18 in 11 1/3.

It was the first time this season Hitchcock pitched into extras. It actually could’ve ended in the standard seven, but Isabella Leon got a handle on a rare mistake pitch by Hitchcock and sent it out to knot it at 1-1.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever pitched 12 innings, but I wasn’t even thinking about what inning it was,” the sixth-year senior said. “I knew we were still in it. We had the game going into the seventh, so I didn’t want to let up after I gave up that home run. I was just excited that we were able to compete, stay in the game and pull off that first win.”

Hitchcock (20-7) became UH’s first 20-game winner since Kaia Parnaby shouldered 39 in 2013. Yanez, who gave up only one hit in regulation — Callee Heen’s fourth-inning home run — dropped to 24-7.

Inning after inning, Hitchcock and Yanez retired their opposite’s teammates with little drama.

“I was just shocked how fast the game was going,” the Davis ace said. “If it was a seven-inning game, I think it would’ve finished in 45 minutes. I was pretty amazed by that. I mean, we both had good games, I feel like. It was a struggle, but I honestly didn’t feel that tired. I was ready to win it.”

After Nicole Lopez opened the bottom of the 12th with a single up the middle and Heen moved her to second with a one-out single past the first baseman, Cheeks Ramos was the hero, smacking a double to right that left no doubt Lopez would score standing up.

“One out at a time, going out there, defense had been solid, we were just waiting for that moment, because we knew we were going to do it,” Hitchcock said. “It was just a matter of when.”

It was redemption for the shortstop Ramos, who committed all three of UH’s errors in the game. UH coach Bob Coolen put Sissy Pantastico at short late in the game but left Ramos in as the designated player in the lineup.

“She was starting to get unsure of whatever she was doing, so we just took her out, left her in the lineup because her bat was something that could win a ballgame, and did win a ballgame,” Coolen said.

Davis, which could’ve reached a program-best 40 wins with a sweep of UH this week, has had a banner year, and it showed in the Aggies’ response.

As impressively as Hitchcock performed, Yanez was just as much of a star for Davis, and in both games. She channeled her energy into her bat in the 7-3 UCD win in the nightcap, going 3-for-4 with a home run (the long ball came in a disastrous third inning for UH, when three Aggies went deep) and three RBIs.

“Pitching, I have way more confidence than hitting, but I do what I can do get on base and just score for my team,” Yanez said.

Brooke Yanez worked for UC Davis in Game 1 of a Thursday doubleheader. / Photo by Brian McInnis

UH’s young group of secondary pitchers (freshman Izzy Dino, freshman Ashley Murphy, sophomore Emily Klee) was unable to hold the line that Hitchcock laid in Game 1. UH’s staff leader asked Coolen whether he wanted her to come on in relief in the nightcap, but he sensed she was tired and wanted to give it her all on Friday.

“Props to Davis for not giving up after that first game,” Hitchcock said. “It’s late for us, it’s late for them. For them to stay pumped up, it was who was going to stay fighting that (second) game and they came out on top.”


Hitchcock and Yanez figure to duel one more time at 7 on Friday, followed by traditional senior ceremonies.

“We’ve had an incredible year, and just like any year, the seniors want to go out on top and enjoy the moment,” Hitchcock said. “Soak it all in. Hopefully we can do it together as a team and go out and get that last win as one family.” Updated: May 19

ConferenceOverall
W-LPct.W-LPct.
Cal State Fullerton18-3.85738-18.679
Hawaii14-7.66733-16.673
UC Davis13-8.61939-14.736
Long Beach State12-9.57125-25.500
Cal State Northridge10-11.47626-28.481
UC Riverside8-13.38126-25.510
Cal Poly5-16.23811-40.216
UC Santa Barbara4-17.19010-42.192

COMMENTS

  1. aaaaa May 10, 2019 7:31 am

    34 wins won’t get you in to the NCAA’s


  2. H-Man May 10, 2019 7:49 am

    Congrats to Brittany for reaching the 20-win milestone season. She was at her best last night. Never seen her pitch better. Hoping for a win tonight to close out her career. Go Wahine !!!


  3. Nomu1001 May 10, 2019 9:08 pm

    Great pitching by Brittany, well deserved win.

    Reserved comment until end of season, and imho, the time has come for coaching changes. Program has been on decline for last five years and while HC contributions to the program is unquestionable, the results have been very disappointing.

    It’s tough to watch the fundamental breakdowns, and even harder to see the lack of confidence and enthusiasm on the faces of players. Maybe we are just seeing it wrong, but doubt it.

    We think the players can be coached up to help players realize their potentials. If that means better salaries, then let’s do that because the alternative is not acceptable. If that means more investment into getting the program up to speed, then let’s do that.

    Players should get the opportunities they deserve. Of course we are grateful for the sacrifices this coaching Staff has made. It’s not about being perfect, that only sets you up for disappointment and failure. It’s about working hard every time with a commitment to get better, so over time you can actually see and feel the improvement made through your efforts.

    Let’s be honest. Will pitching improve next year? Will fundamentals improve? Fine that HC thinks the program is heading in the right direction, but results say otherwise. Theres talent on this team. But we can do better.


  4. Matt May 10, 2019 9:11 pm

    Well, there’s only one positive that can be taken into account on this. Last year, they went 1-6 in the conference series/doubleheader, and they finish 5-2 (With Davis winning the Senior Night just now). That’s a huge confidence boost because in the preseason poll, they were picked to finish 4th. For them to officially finish in 2nd tells me that they’re heading in the right direction. They did so many good things for this program, especially, not limiting to:
    1) Hitchcock reaching 20 wins
    2) Bob Coolen’s 1,000th win by sweeping UCSB
    3) Beating LBSU in a 2-1 series decision for the first time since joining the BWC
    I have never felt so proud of these girls, after all they have gone through, especially in the time they spent with Coach Coolen, it’s impressive what they have done to make it this far. The first time I looked into this was in the 2016 season where Lopez hit the game-winning HR, and at first, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to give it a go, but now that I have got my first taste of watching the girls play, I have to say, they definitely gave me plenty of reasons to feel happy. I look into who they are returning back and who will be coming in terms of the recruiting class for 2020, and I have a feeling that the future will look brighter for Coolen and company. Now it’s a matter if the returning players will pick up where the seniors left off and if they can build upon this season, improving a great deal and coming back stronger. I look forward to seeing the 2020 softball team play and I’ll be excited to see how entertaining of a game I may be seeing.


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